Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, August 20, 2018

Be opened! - Rector's Rambling for August 19, 2018


This morning we hear of the healing of the man who was deaf, and had an impediment of speech.  Jesus performs the healing with the command Ephphatha, which means “be opened”.
This reading, and that phrase, holds a special place in the heart of St. John’s.  For over 100 years St. John’s was the host of the Ephphatha Episcopal Mission of Detroit.
According an article in the February 1919 edition of the magazine “The Silent Worker: a magazine for the deaf by the deaf”, the mission to the deaf at St. John’s began in 1877.  Originally meeting at Grace Church on Jefferson (now closed), by summer of 1877 the mission moved to St. John’s, and continued her ministry here until the 1970s.
In the 1920s St. John’s had seven Sunday Services, two of which were held in sign language.  At 11:00 AM, while the rest of the congregation worshipped in the main sanctuary, the Ephphatha Mission worshiped in the chapel.  In the afternoon there was also a 3:00 PM Evening Prayer service.  Many of the staff and members were graduates of the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint, which continues to this day.
By the 1970s the mission congregation’s size had dwindled, and those few remaining members attended the larger congregational service with a sign language interpreter.  In 2001 the last remaining member of the congregation, Elizabeth Prescott Weber Walker, died.  She had been wife and granddaughter of two of St. John’s Senior Wardens.